Journalism & Law in Sacramento

I think I've had a much different experience, so far, than most of the other Cal-in-Sacramento fellows. I have two, very different internships. I'm a legal intern at the California Department of Justice's Public Rights Division and an editorial intern at Capitol Weekly.

I've had three of my articles published by Capitol Weekly so far and one of them publicized on Rough & Tumble. I've gotten to report on some really fascinating topics, like the power of labor groups in influencing Democratic politics; an audit that revealed the CA Public Utilities Commission wasn't obeying state law; and how a candidate in the controller's race spent $600 on his campaign and ended up only a few tenths of a percentage point behind former Speaker John Pérez.

I've always told people I was interested in attending law school after graduation, but I'd never done legal work prior to this summer. I work on the 15th floor of the DOJ, in the Public Rights Division. I work for the Environment, Land Law & Natural Resources section. I have my own office, which I have yet to decorate with anything particularly exciting. Much of the time I've spent there so far has been in the library. It's one of my ongoing projects to sort through archived opinions of past California Attorneys General and enter them into a database. The books in the library are incredibly old; I find myself regularly sorting through carbon copies from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Sometimes I stumble upon truly dated opinions – opinions like “Hindus can never be naturalized citizens” – that I cannot believe were so recently accepted as legitimate in California.

So far, my time here has definitely helped make my vision of legal work more defined. It's also given me a much better perspective on what lawyers do on a day-to-day basis, away from the glamor of the lives of lawyers in TV shows.

The DOJ is this big, 18-story building, and you have to go through an extensive security process to get in. It's intimidating. On orientation day, I had to sign two or three separate confidentiality agreements stating that I'd never divulge classified information of any kind that I encountered during my time at the office. In addition to never talking with anyone about the work I do here, I have to be mindful not to report on any stories in which the Attorney General is involved, which could be a conflict of interest.

My work at Capitol Weekly has been an entirely different experience than my experience in the Public Rights Division. Every day is something new. Every time you come in, you have to be ready to learn all about something you've never heard about before.

Though I'm not yet sure about wanting to be a professional journalist, the work I've done here in Sacramento for Capitol Weekly, and other media outlets these past few years, has already taught me so much about the news reporting process. There's a lot of stress involved, I won't lie; you have to do everything from getting on the phone with the right people to looking at an issue from an interesting and informative angle – all the while trying to phrase things well and keep your writing concise and pleasant to read. It's made me a much better writer.

But it's also taught me a surprising amount about the functioning of our state government. My time at Capitol Weekly has given me an overview of the Sacramento political landscape, and I've been able to talk with many knowledgeable political consultants, data analysts, business leaders, and professors. Working here has allowed me to reach out to leaders and ask questions, something that has proven invaluable.

I'm positive that my time in Sacramento will be very important to me in my career.

Mia Shaw is a UC Berkeley junior majoring in Political Economy and Rhetoric. She is currently interning with the California Department of Justice and Capitol Weekly as a Cal in Sacramento Fellow.